Just For Laughs VANCOUVER Returns with Diverse and Uproarious Comedy

Darcy and Jer

Western Canada’s largest comedy festival is back—with so many diverse ways to laugh.

This year’s Just for Laughs VANCOUVER marks the return to a full-scale festival as well as to the February dates that comedy fans have traditionally looked forward to for the popular shows. Running February 16-25, 2023, this year’s festival has an exciting lineup of superstars, up-and-coming comedians, as well as a wide array of venues and platforms to enjoy a hearty laugh.

Heather Wallace, Festival Director, is incredibly excited to launch the 2023 Just for Laughs VANCOUVER. “Just For Laughs VANCOUVER stands out as Western Canada’s premium comedy festival, attracting thousands of artists, industry professionals, and fans every February as the city plays host to an array of international and local rising stars,” she says. Wallace adds that artists and industry professionals look forward to the festival in Vancouver because “the comedy enthusiasts that make up our audience are some of the best in the country.” Plus, everyone who is participates in the festival loves taking advantage of Vancouver’s gorgeous scenery, its many attractions, as well as its vibrant food scene.

Wallace is very proud of the diversity of the programing for this year’s Just for Laughs VANCOUVER. Big stars include Margaret Cho (February 18), Sarah Silverman (February 23), and Jonathan Van Ness (February 25). Other artists such as Bassem Youssef (February 22 and 23), SNL’s Sarah Sherman (February 16 and 17), and Tim Dillon (February 24) are making their festival debut this year. “We’re so excited to have such an incredible lineup this year!” Wallace says.

Margaret Cho; Photo Credit: Sergio Garcia

Part of the vibrancy of this year’s festival is due to the significant resurgence that comedy has seen over the last few years. As well, Wallace says that the digital landscape has substantially altered comedy, its fanbase, and interactions with fans. “Thanks to the Internet, artists are finding a new way to reach audiences through the use of various platforms like social media and podcasts, and new stars have been able to get a lot more exposure and gain huge followings,” Wallace says.

In response to these significant changes, Just for Laughs VANCOUVER features live performances by huge comedy podcast sensations, such as Podcast but Outside (February 25), Girl God (February 25), The Office Ladies (February 24), as well as And That’s Why We Drink (February 24). Hannah Berner (February 17 to 18) who amassed a following through videos on Instagram and viral tweets, as well as hosting two hugely popular podcasts (Giggly Squad and Berning in Hell) will appear this year.

Photo: Girl God

The Festival is also featuring homegrown artists that have made it big via social media such as TikTok. “Vancouver’s own Darcy & Jer is a perfect example. They became viral sensations over the pandemic, and now they will be doing their first ever live appearance [February 17] at Just For Laughs VANCOUVER,” Wallace says.

In addition, popular streaming services like Netflix have also given rise to huge comedy stars. Just for Laughs VANCOUVER is recognizing the significance of these new comedy platforms with the spotlighting of Phil Rosenthal (February 19) in their Creator’s Series. Rosenthal is one of Netlix’s top comedy lifestyle personalities, known for his show Somebody Feed Phil, a docuseries that combines comedy with travel and food commentary. In addition, Rosenthal is the host of the podcast Naked Lunch, co-hosted with David Wild, which invites special guests on the show for a meal and a lively chat.

Phil Rosenthal

With North American society going through numerous reckonings, including Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, comedy has become even more inclusive and socially conscious. Wallace says, “Just For Laughs is founded in the inclusion of diverse comedians, with unique perspectives and comedy styles. We are proud to be a part of and support movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo.”

The lineup for Just for Laughs VANCOUVER reflects a commitment to diversity with artists representing diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, genders, sexualities, and types/platforms of comedy. The festival works hard to support emerging local talent, and to book talent that reflects the vibrant demographics of Greater Vancouver. For example, Fistful of Kicks: Kickass Asian Comedy (February 17) features top Asian Canadian comedians, such as Alex Ho, Curt Da Silva, and Juliana Choi. Ola Dada’s Black Out Comedy (February 16) showcases Vancouver and national BIPOC talent, such as Sean McDonnell, Hassan Phills, and Providence Ndizeye. And The Established, Shanda Lear, hosts a Drag Brunch (February 18) with comedic drag performers, Jenny Russell, Batty B Banks, and Jerrilyn Spears.

Wallace argues that comedy can be a unique and effective vehicle for social change. “Through the sharing of stories, artists draw attention to important issues. By disarming audiences with laughter, comedians are using their platforms for the betterment of society more than ever,” she says.

Just for Laughs VANCOUVER continues to expand the physical and financial accessibility of the Festival. “As a team, we are always inspired by the city we live in, and want to make sure we give back with a diverse, inclusive, and accessible festival that everyone can enjoy,” says Wallace. Main venues are wheelchair accessible, and feature trans-inclusive washrooms. Some of the smaller venues aren’t as physically accessible so Just for Laughs VANCOUVER are advocating for funding initiatives that will help update these older venues.

The online comedy options have expanded, with podcasts, such as The Creator’s Series, and a streaming series called The New Wave of Standup with CBC Gem. On days with headline acts at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Just for Laughs VANCOUVER will host free outdoor events at šxʷƛ̓exən Xwtl’a7shn Plaza.

Overall, this year’s Just for Laughs VANCOUVER is set to be a joyous and incredibly funny way to start 2023. Especially after a difficult last few years, comedy is much needed. “Comedy is so important. When times are challenging, being able to laugh at the situation can help relieve stress and anxiety. At Just For Laughs VANCOUVER people can expect to indulge themselves in the comedy experience, and have a good laugh with comedy’s finest,” Wallace says.

Further information on Just for Laughs Vancouver and TICKETS can be found here.

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